I’ve been re-visiting some great TED talks in the run up to Christmas and one in particular got me thinking. Conventional wisdom is for companies to keep on telling versions of the same story over and over again. The more their customers see and hear similar stories, the more they all add up to a consistent brand.
However, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about the danger of telling a single story. Her argument is that the more we are exposed to the same story about a country, continent or people, the more we are inclined to fall victim to the power of the stereotype. She’s quite right of course. To what extent is your view of something influenced by the first – or only – story you encountered about it?
But what about the company story? Don’t we want our business to build a consistent brand by continuing to tell what is effectively the same story over and over again? Well, yes, but only if it’s accurate. This is where so many companies come a cropper. There’s no point banging on about how wonderful you are if it’s inconsistent with the truth and what your customers experience. Do that, and you effectively set yourself up as a hypocrite.
I’ve had personal experience of this with the online shopping catalogue, ASOS. Having failed to deliver an item I ordered on 5 December – it was due on 15 December – and despite the fact that their Facebook page and other online forums are littered with similar stories, their website continues to state that pre-Christmas deliveries are going ahead without any problems.
Telling the story of your brand is as much about facing and correcting your vulnerabilities as it is about consistency. And when things go wrong, there’s absolutely no point in sticking to a story that no longer holds water. If you don’t get real and speak with an authentic voice, your single story will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, which is the last thing any business wants.
So, remember, a single story can turn around and bite you at any time, so never put that single story above authenticity.
how an old-fashioned newsletter did it for Thornhill Solutions
“The newsletter has made a tangible difference to my business and your writing skills and understanding of my customers made it so much more readable and relevant than my original draft.”
Julian Thornhill, MD, Thornhill Solutions Ltd
Thornhill Solutions Ltd is an independent mortgage brokerage run by managing director Julian Thornhill. The company specialises in helping individuals and businesses to find appropriate mortgages and financial protection.
When your product is mortgages, getting customers to come back for a second or third purchase can be difficult. No matter how wonderful your service, the amount of time that can elapse between purchases can be as much as five years – long enough to completely forget about who helped you find your original mortgage. Thornhill Solutions needed to find a way to keep themselves at the forefront of existing customers’ minds without customers feeling bombarded by inappropriate mailings. They also needed a mechanism to help them make appointments for ongoing annual reviews with customers. They knew a good old-fashioned newsletter, delivered through letterboxes, would help, but when they sat down to write it, none of the important points they wanted to make seemed interesting or engaging.
Rachel from Welcome Words completely re-wrote Thornhill Solutions’ rough draft. Lengthy articles to warn customers about interest rate hikes and other fairly dry – but important – financial news were transformed into short, sharp ‘warning triangle’ bullet points. Instead of boring customers, now they made them sit up and take notice. A completely new article about how to make your house more attractive to potential buyers was introduced along with an appealing photograph. Rachel also suggested including some news and photographs about Julian himself – he and his wife were about to have their second child – to enable customers to identify with him. Using her background in newspaper publishing, Rachel was also able to suggest an attractive layout for the newsletter.
• An appealing newsletter full of short, relevant articles and snippets of news
• The newsletter helps Thornhill Solutions to stand out from the crowd of other financial advisors
• Customer engagement – customers mention and compliment the newsletter when Julian rings them and are more inclined to return his calls than they were in the past
• Julian was so pleased with the newsletter, he asked Welcome Words to write the words for his new website as well as to edit guest articles he writes for a local magazine